Maintaining friendships can be challenging for anyone, but the complexities of doing so while traveling full-time can make it even more challenging. As a missionary who bases in Oklahoma but travels most weeks of the year, my life can get a little crazy. We run our own missions organization and a business that works with women in East Africa and I am often gone for months at a time. Friendships could easily take a back seat to the demanding schedule that I have, but I have had to learn to fight against that and be intentional.
Friendships could easily take a back seat to the demanding schedule that I have, but I have had to learn to fight against that and be intentional.
I won’t pretend to suggest that we all have the same schedules or priorities as I recognize we are all in various seasons and have different roles in ministry, but each of us needs a variety of healthy friendships in our lives. I want to share some areas that have helped me not only to set healthy expectations for relationships but also to engage with and make the most of the people in my life in the midst of an otherwise crazy schedule.
1. We need friends, but we can’t NEED friends.
If we want to have healthy relationships, we must first be a healthy friend. We need friendships to enhance our lives, but we can’t be dependent on others to fulfill us. Aside from the obvious that Jesus is how we find a secure identity and contentment, we need healthy friendships. We have to know who we are and be full of God’s love for us in order to rightly seek relationships with others. When we accept ourselves and we are content, we offer that gift to others in our friendships. We have to become aware of our motivations in relationships and what we are seeking from them. This doesn’t mean we have to have it all together, but it means we're not seeking friendships exclusively to validate ourselves.
In line with that thought, we have to have a healthy place to process our problems. A good friend can be there for us in troubled times, but sometimes our issues are above their pay grade. This doesn’t make them a bad friend or make us crazy; it simply means that we need a proper place to discuss and heal from whatever the problem is. Often this requires having a professional counselor to work through past traumas so that we can become healthier. Some of the unhealthy cycles people repeat in relationships are due to unresolved issues within themselves.
Some of the unhealthy cycles people repeat in relationships are due to unresolved issues within themselves.
We need friends because they also need us. If we are withholding who we are from a particular person or group of people and not open to sharing life with them, they could be missing out on something they could gain from us. As women, if we allow things like jealousy, insecurity, anxiety, intimidation or pride to hold us back from engaging with others, we could be missing out on the role we are to play in blessing someone else’s life.
Some questions to ask yourself about being a healthy friend:
* Am I always needy?
* Do I wait only until a crisis to reach out to my friends?
* Am I appropriately vulnerable with them?
* Do I take from some people without properly giving back?
* Am I jealous?
* Do I always wait for others to initiate contact with me?
* Do I need professional help to get over some hardships or struggles?
* Am I personally getting filled by Jesus and letting Him minister to me on a daily basis?
* Am I intentional to remember details about my friends?
* Do I celebrate others well?
2. Friendships aren’t found. They’re formed.
When my childhood best friend and cousin died of cancer after a seven-year battle when I was fourteen, I learned that I needed to be intentional to form other relationships. Growing up practically as sisters with my cousin formed my deep relationship with her and taught me that relationships take time and intentionality to form. We can’t expect one person to fulfill all of our relational needs or expect that a meaningful friendship happens overnight. For me personally, I try to form a variety of friendships for the various needs I have in my life.
I need friends who understand ministry life. Sanctuary is a great place for those of you looking to foster more relationships with like-minded women in ministry.
I need business-minded friends who can steer me in the right direction and encourage me with my artisan company.
I need friends who travel for work who understand the complexity of living out of a suitcase.
I need friends in the countries we work in who understand those cultures and the work I’m doing there.
I need friends who are in different seasons than me like motherhood so I can learn from them.
I need friends who are slightly behind me in years or experience to give advice and wisdom to.
A one-size-fits-all friendship cannot meet all of these needs and it’s unrealistic to expect that. Many times when I feel unfulfilled relationally it’s because I have not been intentional to build on current friendships or I don’t have enough of a diversity of relationships.
* Do I have friends who understand the season I am in?
* Do I have friends who have a similar rhythm and schedule like me?
* Do I have people to learn from or pour into regularly?
* Do I try to engage with people in the places I frequent to make new friendships?
* Do I have healthy friendships in ministry OUTSIDE of my current church/missions field/ministry?
Finally, ask yourself who you’d like to get to know better or go deeper with and be intentional and consistent to carve out time to build that friendship up. Becoming busier by balancing relationships in your life isn’t the goal, but having a variety of people helping you become a healthier woman in ministry is what is needed. We can’t have unrealistic expectations that others will be the ones to initiate friendships with us if we want to form healthy friendships. My prayer is that you would be intentional to be a healthy person who has healthy friendships so that you can minister from that place to others.
Making Time for Friendship is ENTRY TWO in February's blog series, A Journey of His Faithfulness. What have you discovered to be an obstacle between you and authentic friendships within ministry life?
Bailey is a native born Tulsan (Tulsa, Oklahoman). She gave her life to Jesus at 16 years old and felt a call to missions shortly thereafter, which has taken her to 21 countries for ministry. She fell in love with Kenya as a little girl and married her Kenyan-born husband in 2012. "My ministry philosophy has been shaped by encounters with the Holy Spirit and feeling God's heart for His church and the lost." Her heart is to help the needy and the forgotten. This is the motivation behind Kibibi Design, her artisan company which focuses on empowering women in East Africa by creating sustainable fashion. Bailey and husband of seven years, Stephen, are the founders of a global missional organization called Involved International through which they plant churches and train pastors throughout the continent of Africa. Bailey enjoys exploring new cities, trying all kinds of new food, traveling, creating and being with people she loves.To read more from Bailey, visit her site at www.baileykuert.com or follow her on Instagram @baykuert